I admit it: I am addicted to watching "Chopped," a reality cooking show on the Food Network in which four chefs compete for a cash prize. While I do like to cook, I realized something else was drawing me to the show. "Chopped" is just like being a CIO.

Each "Chopped" chef takes a "mystery basket" of ingredients and transforms it into a dish that will be judged on creativity, presentation and taste. The show is divided into three rounds: Appetizer, Entree and Dessert.

In each round, the chefs are given a basket containing four ingredients, all of which must be used in the dish. In a recent episode, the basket contained octopus, dandelion greens, aged Gouda cheese and sour trahana (a grain often used in Greek cooking, made from flour and soured milk). After each round, the dishes are judged and one chef is "chopped," or eliminated from the next round of competition.

Here are six ways "Chopped" is like being a CIO:

1. The mystery ingredients. The first similarity is the unknown. The chefs must use each mystery basket ingredient; they do not have the option to ignore difficult or challenging ones. Nor does the CIO have the luxury to cherry-pick favorite projects while ignoring others. Inside the mystery basket, a chef may discover an ingredient like chicken feet. For the CIO, it might be a project to suddenly deal with a business acquisition, or to quickly respond to a competitor's product.

2. Time pressure. Chefs are given 20 or 30 minutes to prepare their dish. IT projects also have challenging (sometimes seemingly impossible) time constraints. Chefs are often sweating and scrambling at the end to meet the deadline, as IT may occasionally find itself as well. The deadline does not move on "Chopped." Often, deadlines are rigid with IT projects as well, for example with a regulatory compliance date.

3. Resources. In addition to the basket ingredients, the "Chopped" competitors are given access to a pantry and refrigerator stocked with a wide variety of other ingredients. The CIO has access to internal resources, but vendor resources and packaged solutions are also available. How the pantry and external resources are leveraged can make the difference between moving on or being chopped.

4. Adaptability. Often things do not go exactly as planned for the "Chopped" competitors. An oven may not be hot enough, or a sauce burns on the stovetop. In-flight adjustments must be made. So it is with IT projects. A technology component may not work out, or the users may not approve the design. In-flight adjustments must be made in both arenas. Meanwhile, the clock continues to tick.

5. Evaluation criteria. After each round, the "Chopped" judges evaluate the dishes based on presentation, taste and creativity. IT projects are also judged on three factors: cost, timeliness and quality. A project done on time but over budget is an issue. A project under budget but late is an issue. And if the project was delivered on time and on budget, but user requirements were not delivered, again there is an issue. Like "Chopped," all three criteria are used. The CIO and the chefs must pay attention to each factor used in the final evaluation.

6. The threat of being chopped. Using the evaluation criteria, the judges then decide for each round which chef will be "chopped." The recurring stress of being chopped is real for the chefs and can be real for the CIO as well. Demands are high. Expectations are monumental. Evaluations can be brutal.

And if you succeed at navigating all these challenges, you win the right to come back and play the game again with a new mystery basket in the next round. Good luck with your next IT mystery basket!